Crossing the Antarctic Circle…. Red Noses and a Vast Wilderness


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March 9th 2020
Published: May 14th 2020
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There is no doubt that in our minds, Antarctica makes travel dreams come true. Antarctica is the coldest continent. Antarctica is the driest continent. Antarctica is the windiest continent and we were constantly reminded of that on our trip. Antarctica has a rich history full of brave explorers navigating these waters in days past. Voyages were made by men that seemingly no one in their right mind would attempt. It is the only continent not permanently inhabited. It is all this and so much more....The Antarctic Treaty System was created in 1959 to establish Antarctica as a zone of peace and science. Today, the area is protected, and a great deal of valuable scientific research occurs. People will always question and debate whether visitors should be allowed to visit these areas. Our experience with Quark is that safety and protection of this continent is taken seriously. We appreciate all that they do. We truly felt that the only thing we left behind were our footprints.

The 1800’s and early 1900’s was devasting to this region of the world due to whalers and sealers. Fur seals were hunted nearly to extinction and elephant seals were depleted. Fortunately, in place now is a treaty with international cooperation to preserve these lands and animals. They can now live in a place where humans no longer threaten their very existence.......as it should be.

We had already experienced so much....and were no where near done......

Palaver Point 64 degrees 09’S/061 degrees 46’ W

On our way to Palavar Point we were joined by a school of Orcas Whales. They swam along our ship for a couple of hours. The captain slowed and stopped for a while so we could enjoy the show before us. We were mere visitors in their world, but they provided great pleasure to the ship's many whale photographers and observers. Most would point and exclaim each time they saw a blow and a whale tail.

Palaver Point offered stunning views and hundreds of chinstrap penguins. We were able to hike to the top of the viewpoint and look out at our ship and many mountains in the area. It was a bright sunny day, and everyone was pulling off their jackets and fully enjoying the sunshine glistening on the snow and ice packed fields. This turned out to be one of the warmest days we experienced thanks to the sun and very little wind. The sun melted the snow and ice, so we slogged slowly ensuring no peril came to our bodies. LOL.

The zodiac ride at this location was grand. We believed our recent experience with Jen chasing the whales was a once in a lifetime event. Again, we happened to be in Jen’s zodiac, and she found a gold mine of whales. We parked as they floated, swam and surrounded our zodiacs. - several a mere ten feet away at times. Oooh’s, Ahh’s, gasps of joy as they surfaced. For an hour and a half, we were mesmerized by these sublime creatures of the sea. It was a performance that cannot be put to words. Our eyes were full of awe and our hearts full of joy. This was one of life’s grand experiences. We ended up staying longer than we were supposed to, but we knew Jen would not face any consequences for providing us such a grand afternoon of whale watching.

Portal Point. 64 degrees 29’S/ 061 degrees 44’W

On this day, we once again loaded into the zodiacs for another voyage. This one was particularly because we made terra firma and walked on the continent! A special moment indeed and a photo op was created so we all could get our photos taken with the Antarctic flag. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we climbed to the hilltop viewpoint to experience the beauty of the sea, whales and mountains surrounding us. We continue to attempt to put to words the stark beauty and vast wilderness of this area and what we have experienced and yet we continue to struggle. The jaw-dropping rugged vistas were simply awesome....day in...and day out.

Cuverville Island 64 degrees 39’S/ 062 degrees 36’W

As our zodiacs pulled into shore, we were greeted by many penguins swimming and chasing each other in the shallow bay. This stop featured a large Gentoo colony. Many of these penguins were moulting and they look so ugly they are cute. This group seemed used to visitors as several penguins came very close to us. They seemed comfortable walking in front of us and hanging out. The penguins would waddle to the shore and frolic in the bay as we watched. They are simply adorable.

We reaffirmed for the umpteenth time that we never tire of penguins....what
We made it!We made it!We made it!

Antarctica!
is it that makes them so special? You never want to get back in the zodiac and leave....you always want just a few more moments to enjoy these lovely creatures.

Crossing the Circle 66 degrees 34’S/ 067 degrees 26’W

An incredibly special day was ahead of us as we all gathered on the bow of the ship, bundled in our warm weather gear, full of excitement for the champagne toast. Many with their GPS in hand so we’d know the minute we crossed the Antarctic circle; the countdown was on…. the captain blew the horn and we all cheered, hugged, drank our champagne and took photos. This imaginary line represents one of the five major circles of latitude, but it remains a magical experience knowing you’ve crossed a line few people have ventured toward. We had previously crossed the Arctic Circle, but without any fanfare as we were in an airplane at the time.

Our expedition leader Laurie and Paola, one of the crew, stood high on the rim of the ship with microphone in hand. Paola sang out with an operatic voice that created silence on the deck. Laurie then read an excerpt from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel T Coleridge. As we listened tears ran down MJ’s cheeks and Dave simply smiled quietly at the moment. As the crowd dissipated, we stayed on deck and enjoyed a moment of silence full of emotions from the song and the speech which made us all feel very connected. We were now members of the "Red Nose Club."

Crossing the Circle Speech:

Ladies and gentlemen, congratulations! You are about to join that small and exclusive group whose members have crossed the Antarctic Circle. Members whose lives have been touched and forever changed by the beauty and majesty of Antarctica. You are about to cross the elusive line that has captured the imagination of so many, the line below which the sun does not set during the summer solstice, and below which the sun does not rise during the winter solstice.

Today we stand on the shoulders of giants, those explorers of the heroic age who came here before us. Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen, Mawson, Bellingshausen & Arctowski, to name just a few.

On this day, Tuesday March 3rd, 2020, we follow in their footsteps. Today we add to the history of polar exploration as we too cross the Antarctic Circle.

Today we sail into the real Antarctica.

Today we push south further still.

Today we have our eyes more widely opened to the wonders of the 7th continent.



By the end of this voyage you will indeed be ambassadors, spreading the word of a pristine continent at the bottom of the world, where there are no recognized boundaries, and the nations of the world are united to jointly manage and conserve this most beautiful land. Where the animals have no fear of people, where the air is clear and where people may freely go with the spirit of adventure in their heart. We hope that you continue to be captivated and amazed by the beauty and majesty of Antarctica.

“And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.



The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around:

It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound!



Under the keel nine fathom deep, From the land of mist and snow, The spirit slid: and it
Julian Jumps with GustoJulian Jumps with GustoJulian Jumps with Gusto

Photo credit: Ship's photographer
was he That made the ship to go.”

Polar Plunge

Yeah.....we knew about this well before boarding the ship. Jump into the freezing water and get your picture taken.....Dave had absolutely no interest in plunging into freezing cold water and MJ had already had this experience in the Ross Sea at McMurdo Base, Antarctica on New Year’s Eve 1989 so she wasn’t going to plunge again. We gathered with friends on the starboard deck and watched others make their mark on history. Our new friend Julian was the first one in and this did not surprise us at all! We barely had time to get into position to film him.

Hidden Bay 65 degrees 00’S/ 063 degrees 46’W

Today had some wicked winds which prevented us from a shore landing. Getting to and from the sheltered bay was a bit wet for some but well worth it to sit and in the quiet remoteness and enjoy the walls of ice. We absolutely enjoyed our romp in the zodiacs enjoying the icy waters in the bay. Once again.....much to take in as the views continued to be spectacular....even in the windiest of conditions.

Andvord Bay 64 degrees 47’S/ 062 degrees 42’W

Trips like this require flexibility as it is not predictable what you will find at an anticipated landing site in the ever-changing weather and waters. The original plan was landing at Nedo Habour for our 2nd touch of the mainland continent but it was not to be. Beautiful and plentiful ice flows kept that from happening, but it created a rather surreal zodiac ride enjoying the lazy crabeater seals and leopard seals lounging about the hunks of floating ice. It was a cloudy day but there was enough light to create heavenly reflections of the mountains and ice in the waters. The silence was only broken by soft cracks of ice in the distance. We did catch a glimpse of a humpback whale. Every day is special.....even if the original plan is ditched due to conditions no one can mitigate.

Damoy Point 64 degrees 48’S/ 063 degrees 31’W

At this location we had plenty of Gentoo penguins for our entertainment along with two huts. One was a British refuge hut and the other an Argentinian hut. The British hut was previously used as a transit station for personnel and supplies to be taken from the ship and flown south in early summer when sea ice blocked access. We are told it was used intermittently between 1973 and 1993 and cleaned up during the 1996/97summer. It was nice visiting another island with historical structures but the penguins always steal the show.

Lemaire Channel 65 degrees 05’S/ 063 degrees 58’W

Often times this channel is blocked with ice and unable to navigate. This channel or strait is seven miles long and one mile wide. By this time in the trip we were confident we had an experienced captain and crew navigating for us but as this large ship enters this channel you can help but hold your breath, wonder how wide the chunks of glacier are under the water and stare in amazing as to how close the walls of mountains are to the ship. Bravo is all we can say. Birds circle above us. We see another ship off in the distance and attempt to determine if they have already been through this passage, waiting for us to clear out of the way or watching in wonder and hoping they are going to traverse those waters. It was the only ship we saw for well over two weeks.....yes...it is that remote.

Pleneau Island 65 degrees 063’S/ 064 degrees 02’W

With great sadness this was our last trip off the ship before heading home. It was grand. The island was full of penguins hopping around on big rocks, flopping and twirling around in the shallow waters near shore. They were very active and came very close. And again....we did not want to leave...just wanted to linger a few more minutes to take in these magnificent creatures for the last time on this trip.

The entire trip we’d been making an effort to get in Dave Allcorn’s zodiac and on this trip we were successful. Dave has a great sense of humor and was able to get us very close to the penguin colonies. On our trip we came along a leopard seal eating a penguin and were able to watch mother nature in action. Just like lions in Africa they play with their prey before killing it. We watched the injured penguin get nudged and tossed around a bit before he finished him off.

The Drake Passage and Cape Horn

The Drake passage was once an important
A toast!A toast!A toast!

We are now members of the "Red Nose Club"
international trade route especially before the Panama Canal opened. It is infamous for its wicked rough seas. We are told that in years past when a sailor had “rounded the horn” he wore a good loop earring in his left ear and was given special privileges to put one foot up on the table at dinner.

The passage of the Drake was talked about from the beginning of the trip to the end. The passage is described in three ways; the Drake Lake, the Drake Shake and the Drake Quake. Staff told us stories of recent passengers having to stay in their cabins the last two days of the trip and food boxes were delivered to the rooms so everyone would stay safe. On one voyage a big wave hit the side of the ship and water came crashing through the lobby. We are told no one was injury yet many were surprised. On this three-week trip we had already had two nights of rough seas. The first one about 25%!o(MISSING)f the boat was seasick and on the 2nd more than 50%!o(MISSING)f the ship was sick and taking drugs. (MJ was included in that group) Our passage
Penguin conversationsPenguin conversationsPenguin conversations

"You jumping in first....or me?"
of the Drake was the Drake Lake and no one complained.

We traveled 4068 nautical miles and had a blast! Each day was different than the day before and filled with excitement and wonder. We miss all of our new friends.

FYI: Quark Expeditions does not charge an extra fee for those traveling alone. On our trip were several who selected this company for that reason.

We’ve learned we do not like writing our blogs after our trip. Writing in real time while we are feeling the emotions in real time is the best for us. We can better convey the happiness, enthusiasm or disappointment of our adventure. If our laptop had not died, we would have been able to do that on this trip also.....but so it goes.....until next time.....


Additional photos below
Photos: 42, Displayed: 32


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Dave in full warmth gearDave in full warmth gear
Dave in full warmth gear

Taking no chances.
Merry Jo and JeanMerry Jo and Jean
Merry Jo and Jean

Talking penguins and McMurdo


14th May 2020

I also prefer to write my blogs while the experience is fresh...
You must have kept a good diary, as you were able to "convey the happiness, enthusiasm or disappointment of your adventure."
14th May 2020

Writing while the experience is fresh
It was an unusual experience. Yes, we did keep good notes and then the cruise company sent the daily diary of where we were each day which helped enormously. We look forward to blogging in real time moving forward. Thank you for following along on our adventure. We always appreciate your comments.
14th May 2020

amazing!
Hi Dave and Merry jo, What an incredible journey. One you will never forget, that’s for sure. We only get one shot at life and you certainly continue to give yours a blast!
14th May 2020

Amazing!
An incredible journey indeed. This was a special trip and will certainly remain one of our top experiences. We don't want any regrets and so far so good. Thank you for commenting.
14th May 2020
Plenty of Ice

Antarctica
Probably the best for me in these blogs is the overwhelming occasion of joy and wonderment in each paragraph...then there are the photographs...surreal & stunning! Gotta luv the Great South Pole land. No doubt that Dangerous Dave & Merry Jo do!
14th May 2020
Plenty of Ice

Antarctica!
This trip excited emotions that some trips cannot. The sense of awe and wonder. The colors were perfect for photography and different every single day. Thanks for reading and commenting my friend.
14th May 2020
Nature's carving makes for a great view

Nature's Carving
Exquisite in icy spades
14th May 2020
Nature's carving makes for a great view

Nature's Carving
It was amazing riding around in the zodiac in a field of these frozen pieces of artistry. It took our breath away.
14th May 2020

Genral
Nice blog, keep the good wok going
14th May 2020

Genral
We enjoy telling the story of our adventure.
14th May 2020

Fabulous Thanks For This Post
What a wonderful adventure - How great that you shared this. The photos are amazing and the writing interesting and insightful. Thank you.
14th May 2020

Fabulous Thanks For This Post
Indeed we had an amazing adventure! We appreciate you reading and commenting. We hope you enjoyed all the blogs on this trip.
14th May 2020

vicarious joy
Once again, thanks so much for sharing with those of us who will never be able to go in person. Enjoyed the penguins the most!
14th May 2020

Vicarious Joy
Thanks Billie for following along and commenting. It was a great trip and we are happy to share. This part of the world is magnificent. The penguins are indeed the cutest!
14th May 2020

Very informative and interesting as usual, and those pictures are just amazing. What a breathtaking place. Dave looks so happy! I would just love the excursions by zodiac and even the polar plunge. Thanks for mentioning that Quark also has a single supplement. One day I’d love to have a wine with you MJ and hear all about your McMurdo visit in ‘89. Alas, still can’t afford a 7th continent trip as I would also have to pay for my dad, but I’ve bought my lotto tickets so, fingers crossed.
15th May 2020

Hello Andrea,
Good hearing from you again. It was a breathtaking place. Our words to do describe it well. The zodiac was so much fun. We were at water level with the whales and penguins. It was perfect. Keeping my fingers crossed for your lotto tickets. The non-single supplement is alluring. There were several people traveling alone and we included a couple of them in our group. We made good friends with some of you Canandians! eh.
14th May 2020

Brr
Such a lovely virtual trip you made for your readers. I could feel the wind in my hair, the clean air and the adventure of the experience. Thanks for creating such a creative diary for your followers. Love to you both!
15th May 2020

Brr
Yes lots of wind in our hair! It was amazing. We will remember this one for decades to come.
16th May 2020

You Did It, Red Nose Winners
Wow,what an amazing trip. You were able to see so much beauty of nature while being pampered and entertained. I am so happy you were able to do this, and so glad you made it there before the world shut down. Thanks for the stories, even if there were after the fact. They still rocked.
16th May 2020

You did it, Red Nose Winners
Indeed one amazing trip!. Life on board was very comfortable. We loved going out on deck to enjoy birds and search for whales, seals and penguins. Our return timing was great. Thanks for following along and commenting.
16th May 2020

Close encounters with whales and penguins
Wow, again you had so many close encounters with whales and penguins. I can imagine you could always have stayed around for longer to watch them. How brave of Julian to plunge into the feezing cold water. Bravo!
17th May 2020

Close encounters with whales and penguins
We loved this trip and wonder if we might take it again at some point in the future. So many great penguins and whales.
16th May 2020

Antarctic Ambassadors!
Hi Merry Jo and Dave, I have enjoyed every minute reading about your Antarctic adventures -- you're both such great ambassadors for visiting the 7th continent. I still hope to visit there someday if I am able to talk my hubby into it as he's an old salt anyway. Quark Expeditions sounds like the ultimate company to travel with for experiences as well as insisting on being so totally environmentally conscientious. Your photos are beyond words!
17th May 2020

Antarctic Ambassadors!
I do hope you can talk your husband into this trip and we highly recommend Quark. They are leaders in Antarctica explorations. Thank you for your kind words. We appreciate you following along and commenting.
18th May 2020

The icy continent and penguins
Sounds like you guys had a wonderful experience in the company of whales, different kinds of penguins, fellow travelers who too were as excited as you were and the majestic icy wonderland that Antarctica is.
18th May 2020

The icy continent and penguins
Good hearing from you Hem. its of whales, seals, penguins and great people. Amazing mountains and clear waters abound. Antarctica is so special.... an icy wonderland indeed. Thanks for commenting.
19th May 2020

Blogging in Real Time
I too, prefer blogging in real time, while I am on the trip. It makes for some late nights but I much prefer blogging as I go. What an incredible experience! I really enjoyed reading about it and seeing all your fantastic photos. I hope someday to see Antarctica.
20th May 2020

Blogging in Real Time
I'm glad to hear there are others out there that prefer this. It is best for us to write while we are connected to the emotions and feelings. Antarctica was grand and we hope you get there.
20th May 2020
Clear waters show hidden ice

Ah, the tip of the iceberg :)
Loving how your excitement and love of this trip shines through! I think penguins are weird but so cute and amazing... have you seen the video of the BBC sports commentator who 'called' a penguin parade in Australia? I think you'll like it :)
23rd May 2020
Clear waters show hidden ice

The tip of the Iceberg
I saw the penguin parade... that was clever. It was a marvelous trip. I'm glad our joy came through in our writing.
22nd May 2020

Great pics again
Love those carved ice views. Some interesting snippets in there too. I think the rule that a man must have rounded the horn to have an earing should be international law. I shall not put my foot on the coffee table again! Interesting also that you've come to the conclusion that you don't like writing blogs after a trip. I take notes on the trip but I find writing later gives me the benefit of hindsight and an overview. Can't wait to get travelling again...
23rd May 2020

Great pics again
We'd love to travel again also.... we find that writing during the trip captures our true excitement and emotions. We all have our own methods. Your comments made me laugh. Thanks for following along.
24th May 2020

A trip to remember
The documentary is excellent and experience is out of the world. You are lucky, you covered Antarctica. By the time I am ready, not sure there would be further restrictions. Oh yes, despite I am from the winter wonderland, I shivered when I read about the polar jumps and I don't envy the folks who did - hats off to them and relieved that Dave skipped it. 'MJ did it earlier' ...well no comment MJ :):)
26th May 2020

A trip to remember
I've been thinking about you so it is great hearing from you. An out of the world experience indeed. Antarctica was magical. You'll have to do the polar plunge.

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